Question of the Week: Dianne Wilkinson

Yesterday, I made the case for bringing back the hymn “All the Way My Savior Leads Me.” Legendary songwriter Dianne Wilkinson posted to comment that the song is her all-time favorite hymn. This intrigued me to no small extent, since it’s a hymn that even many churches that sing hymns have forgotten. So I emailed to ask if she’d be willing to discuss her high regard for the song for a follow-up post. She replied:

Dianne: Daniel, Daniel…I’m delighted to talk with you about this masterpiece!  I love everything written by Miss Fanny!  My favorite co-writer with her is Mr. W.H. Doane, but Mr. Lowery has written what I believe is the most beautiful melody to ANY of her songs.  I think most people would say “Blessed Assurance” is their favorite Fanny Crosby song, and it, too, is a masterpiece…but this one here is my favorite.

Daniel: What elements of the lyric and melody make “All the Way my Savior Leads Me” your favorite hymn?

Dianne: I LOVE what “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” says, lyrically.  Miss Fanny, even in her blindness, always expresses her total trust in God to protect her and provide for her.  It’s SO prominent in her songs, as well as her firm belief in Eternal Security.  I was saved when I was in my early 30s, but it was much later when I learned the secret of how to have the abundant life we are promised…it’s turning loose of that last shred of control in your own life and completely ceding your will over to God’s, minute by minute, present and future.  MEANING it, and LIVING by it…not just saying it.  I don’t know when in Miss Fanny’s life she learned this, but I KNOW she did.  She couldn’t write about it so eloquently if she had not.  She is such a MASTER (“mistress” just won’t work here!) lyricist and poet that ALL her songs are wonderfully crafted throughout.  I can imagine her sending the completed lyric to this song to Mr. Lowery, and as soon as he started reading, the beautiful melody just start coming to him.  I like to think they didn’t have to change a single syllable to make it “fit”!  And OH, the melody!!  When I just sit at my piano and play this song…no singing…the beauty of the melody moves me to tears.  It’s just perfection to me.  I not only love the grand old hymns of the 19th century, I grieve to think that so many of them are being dropped from hymnals and that someday there not be young people who know “All the Way My Savior Leads Me”.  Roger Darlin’ Bennett and I talked about this wonderful hymn often.  Like so many things we had in common…it was his favorite, too.

Daniel: As discussed in yesterday’s post, there have been very, very few recorded versions in Southern Gospel—so whether SG or otherwise, do you have any favorite recorded versions?

Dianne: I don’t believe I have a recorded version of “All the Way My Savior Leads Me.”  I know who sings it the best to my ear…my brother (my very dear brother, James Branscum, pastor of Mercer Baptist Church in Powderly, Kentucky).  I love to hear him sing it, and I love to accompany him on the piano.  I believe if Miss Fanny could hear him, he’d be her favorite, too.  Maybe a LITTLE bias there!

Daniel: Is there anyone you would love to see offer a new rendition of the song?

Dianne: With Tim Parton to arrange an a capella version right there in the group, I think Legacy Five could do this beautifully.  I don’t think only the majestic hymns like “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” lend themselves well to a capella…”All the Way My Savior Leads me” would be lovely done this way.  Wayne Haun could also do a great arrangement for Ernie and Signature Sound.  I’ll jump track here and say the Isaacs would be amazing on this song, with the acoustic instruments and soft fiddle.  My MY!!!! Honestly, any group with a tight blend and wonderful harmony could do this beautiful song with a great arrangement – not overdone…but simply done, to showcase the song itself and not the production.

Thanks for letting me talk about this beautiful collaboration of Miss Fanny Crosby and Mr. Robert Lowery.  Those folks paved the way for people like me, and I will be eternally (literally!) grateful.

Daniel: Thank you! And thank you especially for taking the time to do this while it was fresh on the readers’ minds!

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33 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. Wait a minute, I’m a dufus—of course I have a recorded version of the hymn, the original hymn, not the Chris Tomlin re-make. It’s an acapella solo rendition by Cynthia Clawson, from her album Prayer & Plainsong. She nails it! That entire album is just a work of art, easily one of the finest I have ever come across in my life.

    I agree with Dianne, a simple arrangement to keep focus on the lyric is what’s needed here.

  2. I am a bit puzzled by Dianne Wilkinson’s assertion that Fanny Crosby would have had a “firm belief in Eternal Security.”

    Fanny Crosby was a life long Methodist, and as such, would surely have subscribed to a Wesleyan Arminian view, and not a Calvinist view. While she would have believed in being secure in Christ, she would not have believed in the Cavinist version of once saved, always saved.

    Maybe that is not what Dianne meant by “eternal security,” but I can only assume that she is Baptist, as her brother is a Baptist minister. That being the case, I am assuming she is talking about the classic interpretation of eternal security, a view Fanny Crosby would NOT agreed with.

    • Interesting. As an Arminian myself, I do believe that one can in theory “fall from grace,” i.e. if you begin sinning and rejecting God without any kind of repentance. Even if you truly accepted God once, I believe that if you ultimately choose to reject him instead, God will honor that decision. However, I do believe in the Christian’s security in Christ—though I suspect, like you, that if Crosby was not a Calvinist, she probably didn’t believe in “eternal security” in the sense Miss Diane might have been thinking of.

      • Wow, I meet two like-minded people out here and never even guessed it! I agree with you on both of these comments.

  3. Mrs. Dianne,

    You have been my favorite songwriter ever since I starting researching who wrote the Southern Gospel songs that I love so dear! You just continue to bless my heart with amazing songs on the Kingdom Heirs’ projects and I am hearing more and more groups pick up your songs. You are such a blessing to so many Southern Gospel fans whether they know it or not. You know me Mrs. Dianne, I am Southern Baptist too and believe in eternal security and can see how this song could portray that to the listener or reader. I am definitely not going to get in to a doctrinal issue but I am thankful for the love of God and the sacrifice that He gave to all of us! I am so thankful God saved me and so thankful that He allows me to sing His music and I thank Him for songwriters like you Mrs. Dianne and for bloggers like Daniel who will stand up for what they believe in. Thanks so much for the post. God bless y’all!

  4. Dianne, as an Arminian in belief and practice, I can assure you that Blessed Assuarance is a favorite of ours as well. :)That assurance comes from faith in the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

    I think, were we to set down and talk about it, we would be closer in theology that one might think.

    • My dad once said that the Nazarenes believe like us (our holiness denomination) about backsliding – they “just don’t practice it.” I’ve never been sure just what he meant by that, and would guess that he didn’t either, but it always brings a smile when I think of it.

  5. [EDIT]

    • Dan,

      Let’s avoid going there. There are plenty of places on the ‘net to debate Calvinism vs. Arminiasm, and many great books published on the topic. This just isn’t the best place to debate it out.

      I don’t mind stating my view, and I don’t mind others stating on which side of the aisle they fall. (I would fall into the Reformed / Calvinistic camp, holding a view of Predestination which, in plain English, means that a Sovereign God knows and has foreordained whether or not you will end up saved – God knows how the story ends, and of course, the twists and turns you will take along the way before the final result.)

      I don’t mind if others express their views in a courteous fashion – let’s just avoid debating in this venue.

      • Daniel, good grief, I wasn’t looking for a debate, just asking a question.

        Please delete the rest of my post instead of leaving “Great discussion” lol

      • OK, I deleted the rest – technically, I replaced it with an “edit,” because I can’t delete it without messing up replies.

        I am sure you were just asking a question, but Calvinists are known for loving a good, all-out debate, and I’m just as guilty . . . so knowing first-hand how Calvinists think, asking a question challenging eternal security is sure to spark quite the debate, no matter how innocently it was intended! 🙂

      • Yup, because Arminians love debate too. 😀 Including me! I think I’d have had the self-control to stay out of it … but not speaking for NSF here.

      • Yes, NSF loves debate – I know first-hand. 🙂

        So I knew we had a couple gallons of vinegar and baking soda in place, and they were getting dangerously close to mixing. 🙂

      • I like your site Daniel, but trust me, from now on, I will be using a fictitious name. I have already received one email from a friend asking me what I actually said, and lucky for me I have a ‘key logger’ so I could prove that I wasn’t trying to start WW3 🙂

      • Dan, I sincerely apologize for any confusion my edit may have caused.

        As I said above, there was nothing at all the problem with the question! It was just going to mix vinegar and baking soda in this particular context, with this particular bunch. Should you need any backup, I would be happy to forward my email notification of the original comment to anyone who needs it.

        Plenty of people who comment on here use only first name, or (as in your case, where there could be some confusion with me) first name and last initial.

      • I’ve been absent for a while, but I’m glad to see I didn’t start an explosion with my comment. 😉

        I grew up around a lot of Calvinists, so I’ve actually learned to just “agree to disagree” on some things. I believe they’re mistaken, but it’s not something I get really upset and passionate about. Certainly there are more profitable things to talk about on an SG blog. 🙂

  6. I suppose if someone believes something as firmly as I believe in the eternal security of the believer, it is possible to filter things we hear into our own belief system. I knew Miss Fanny was a Methodist, but I’ve known so many who believe as I do (yes…fundementalist, old-time Southern Baptist all the way), it never occurred to me that someone who would write about blessed assurance, being washed in the blood, and being at rest, could believe she could lose her salvation. It was not my intention to spark a doctrinal issue…but maybe it taught us all something. Some of you who don’t quite believe as I do have said you have enjoyed my songs over the years…as I have enjoyed those of Fanny Crosby. So that just must be a wonderful God thing…something He does with Christian music of all kinds. Now that’s a blessing! Dianne.

    • Thank you for your gracious response to the questions raised!

      It is easy to view things through our worldview – we all do that more often than we realize!

      Also, it’s worth noting that many people don’t necessarily agree with their denomination’s views on a given topic.

    • I appreciate your response – I think you said it very well!

    • Diane- I met your brother a few months ago at his church when the Talley’s were there. Then last month he and I brought the Dove Brothers in there at Mercer Baptist. He sang at both concerts, and brought the house down. He is great! When he sings this particular song, it would be awesome!

    • We do love your songs Miss Diane, and Miss Fanny’s as well. Like John said, I’m sure we would agree on many things! Some day, I’m sure, we will sit down by the river and become better acquainted, and what a day that will be.

  7. I, too, love this hymn. It’s a beautiful, often forgotten treasure and it is stunning. I am in completely agreement with Dianne. Just the simple melody evokes strong emotion in me, as does many of the great hymns penned by Fanny Crosby. Combined with the strong lyric, it truly is profound.

    And I’ll be bias with Dianne also. Her brother James sings this song so incredibly. He is an extraordinarily talented communicator, as well as singer. Bro. James pastors a church about 5 minutes from my house and I have the blessing of going there often to sing because he is kind and gracious enough to think I can! 🙂

    And occasionally, like this past weekend’s gospel singing at Mercer Baptist, we have the honor of getting to have Ms. Dianne in attendance! Always a joy.

  8. As for my favorite Fanny hymn, they’re all great, but I have always loved “Some Day the Silver Cord Will Break.” That’s probably my all-time fave. (And Daniel, I noticed it’s not on your hymns website. Ahem. ;-))

    • Donate a hymnal that itself is in the public domain, scan it, and transcribe it, and that can easily be remedied. 🙂

      • Actually, that’s still in the “To Transcribe” folder. I’ll get on it now.

      • Awesome – I didn’t realize that. Thanks, Levi! (In case any of you didn’t realize, I built the site but Levi has done most of the work of keeping it running since the launch.)

    • Or “Ahymn.” 😉

      • That made me LOL. Yay, puns!

  9. Or, I could do an arrangement of it. 😀

  10. “…it’s a hymn that even many churches that sing hymns have forgotten.”

    That’s a real shame…it’s a marvelous song of faith. In fact, when I put together this week’s church song service, that one’s the clean-up batter 🙂

  11. Daniel, WOW…I had to have my wife stop what she was doing and sit down at the piano and sing the song with me. It was moving just singing it here in our living room. Praise God for anointed songs!

    • Very neat! Maybe y’all could be the ones to bring it back.

  12. I love this song too…our trio have decided to record it on our first album…i’m working on the arrangement…and trust me…you will still be able to hear that beautiful melody…you simply don’t wanna mess with songs like that…my favorite old hymn…btw my mom and uncle used to sing it at the organ…one of the songs i grew up on…only they sang it in dutch…the title translated in dutch reads;
    ‘Al de weg leid mij, mijn Heiland’